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Research is a necessary first step before getting behind the wheel for a test drive. Find out the reliability, frequency of repairs and safety data on all of your favorite models. This can be found on numerous online sites, including Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. Gather the information then balance style against practicality and determine which ones make the cut for a test drive.

Approach the test drive with a clear head, and remind yourself this is only one of several you may like. Settling yourself on a specific make or model in advance makes it difficult to accurately evaluate a vehicle, much less negotiate a deal on one.

When you get behind the wheel, see if the car has what you need in terms of power, interior space , safety features, and ease of entry and exit. Then be on the lookout for excessive wind or engine noise, heavy or imprecise steering, poor gas mileage, sloppy fit (trim, molding, etc.), unreadable instruments and clumsy controls or levers.

You’ll also want to consider whether the car fits your lifestyle. Will your luggage fit in the trunk? Are there enough seats or cargo space? Lastly, local parts and service, and a solid warranty, are important factors to consider.

Buying a vehicle is major purchase and should be researched thoroughly. Rushing too quickly into a deal can be disaster---one that could have been prevented. By following these pointers before you buy, you'll help ensure you're getting the RIGHT vehicle for you.

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